We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A soldier returns Part I

Lindybeige (1.2m YouTube subscribers) hardly needs our endorsement but this interview with a British member of the Ukrainian Foreign Legion is excellent. Organisation, disorganisation, treachery, office politics, death, Walter Mittys, mess tins, big bangy things, tea; it’s got it all, apart from Part II.

You will be poorer, and you will be happy – a continuing series

“Switzerland could be the first country to impose driving bans on e-cars in an emergency to ensure energy security. Several media report this unanimously and refer to a draft regulation on restrictions and bans on the use of electrical energy. Specifically, the paper says: “The private use of electric cars is only permitted for absolutely necessary journeys (e.g. professional practice, shopping, visiting the doctor, attending religious events, attending court appointments).” A stricter speed limit is also planned highways.”

Der Spiegel, the German publication (via the ironically named US website, Hotair.)

A few weeks ago, California’s government warned that petrol (sorry, gasoline)-driven vehicles would be compulsory soon, while warning of blackouts.

It’s a clown show out there, but who feels like laughing?

For a sanity check, I recommend this book, Fossil Future, by Alex Epstein, to my friends, and occasionally to those I want to torment, in my adolescent fashion. Excellent book that gets to the philosophical guts of what is wrong and malevolent about much modern environmentalism.

Samizdata quote of the day

COVID is only a problem for people with some form of compromised immunity and/or comorbidity.

It has always been thus.

As Dr McCullough would say – “it is amenable to risk stratification and effective early treatment” (whatever “it” is, which you will understand is not actually that important if you read on).

The “hammer” approach is actually a great analogy. It’s just like this other one: “A sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

My favourite way of expressing it at the time was taking a homogenous approach to tackling a heterogeneous problem.

Absurd, illogical, inefficient, doomed to inevitably fail even absolutely let alone in terms of relative cost/benefit.

Several months later, the best epidemiologists in the world articulated it in The Great Barrington Declaration.

What’s truly incredible is that any of this needs saying. I can still clearly recollect Covidians arguing that it was not easier to protect the vulnerable (who were already mainly corralled in hospitals and care homes anyway) who numbered no more than 2% of the population, than it was to shut down the other 98%.

Joel Smalley

Race grifters gonna grift

When I first read of the storm-in-a-teacup story of an 83 year old royal aide, Lady Susan Hussey, asking some black woman who runs a charity, Ngozi Fulani “where are you actually from?”… I thought it seemed rather a crass line of questioning in this day and age. Indeed, cringeworthy was the term that came to mind.

But then I saw a picture of Ngozi Fulani (if ever there was a Liverpudlian sounding name… previously known as Marlene Headley) dressed like an extra on the set of some Black Panther movie, suddenly the entire encounter started to look entirely different.

Turns out the woman was cosplaying as an African and yet took umbrage when someone consequently assumed she was African (pro-tip Susan, actual Africans rarely dress like that which should have been a giveaway). The moment Ngozi Fulani started flouncing around announcing how upset she was at such ‘racism’, the response should have been to tell her to grow the hell up and make damn sure she never gets invited to any official functions in the future.

The EU stands up for financial privacy (yes, really)

For once (yes, it happens) the legal authorities of the EU are in the right, in my view, and their critics are wrong, contrary to what Henry Williams, author of this article in CapX, says.

A top EU court has ruled that creating public registers of beneficial ownership, so that everyone can just find out who owns what, is a dangerous loss of privacy. In my view, if people are concerned that X or Y is an owner of a company or trust and that is somehow nefarious, they should get clearance first from a court or suitable legal authority and show some reason for the desire to obtain that data. It is not, in my view, acceptable to put everyone’s beneficial ownership details in the public domain so that journalists and others, many of whom seem to have it in for anyone whom they deem rich, can put this information into the public domain. For instance, public registers means that people can simply go on “fishing expeditions” and dump all kinds of financial data into the public domain, and damn the consequences. Sure, if politicians and the like have questionable financial affairs, some on the libertarian side will think they are fair game, but those whose only “crime” is to be rich or successful will get caught in the crossfire.

There are also risks, as lawyers have pointed out, that such owners can be targeted by gangs. This is not paranoia. And paradoxically, the pressure for beneficial ownership disclosure clashes with data protection rules in the EU – known as GDPR.

It is arguable that Swiss bank secrecy was a step too far, but there is such a thing as legitimate privacy. Would, for example, the author of the linked article from CapX be happy for there to be public databases, accessible to all, of medical information, etc? (Maybe he is.) We seem to live in an era where due process of law and respect for privacy are forgotten or seen as old-fashioned issues.

Being independent of the EU does not mean that everything in the EU is bad or worse than in the UK. Occasionally, the EU gets things right. The key is that decisions rest in the hands of the UK electorate.

Financial privacy is not a popular subject, and there are lots of campaigners, sometimes coming from a good place, who think putting everything in the public domain is a good thing. They are wrong, and for once, a court has done the right thing. I doubt, of course, that this debate is over.

Why Stalin giving a hockey player a house the other day was not as nice as it seemed

For some reason I was not as enthused about the recent actions of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, as the mykhel.com reporter seemed to be:

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin gifts a house to India hockey player Karthi Selvam on seeing current house condition

Chennai, Nov 30: Rising India hockey player Selvam Karthi has a new abode where he can live with his family. The new house has been gifted to the hockey player by Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin. Stalin recently paid a visit to the Karthi’s house in the Ariyalur district, which is 360 kilometres away from Chennai, and seeing the dilapidated condition of the Indian player’s residence, he gifted him a new house.

I have nothing against sporting achievement being rewarded, but there does seem to be something disturbingly arbitrary about a public servant having the power to give away entire houses to players who have a good debut against New Zealand. Given that Mr Stalin celebrates Social Justice Day, I assume he was not generously donating his own money: the “gifting” was actually done, involuntarily, by the taxpayers of Tamil Nadu. Aside from that, history relates that when sportsmen are lavishly rewarded by political leaders it does not always go well for them in the long run. While I am sure that Karthi Selvam, the young player in question, is happy with his new house, he should remember that what the State giveth, the State can taketh away. I hope for Mr Selvam’s sake that he does not disappoint in his next game.

When the outside world intrudes into the repressive narrative

I read the following article about the civil unrest in mainland China, caused by anger and frustration over the endless cycle of lockdowns and repression:

The sight of thousands of international football fans celebrating in stadiums in Qatar, without a face mask or testing station in sight, has broken the spell of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda.

My first thought was that maybe the Qatar World Cup has something to recommend it after all (beyond watching the outstanding Brazil football team, which I hope wins it). Maybe the thugs running the CCP and China hadn’t realised that the sight of thousands of fans not wearing masks and having a jolly time (even if beer is not being sold in the grounds – ye gods!) would be seen by the Chinese public. Just as Ron DeSantis’s relatively sane approach to lockdown in the US, or those of Sweden on the same issue, have been impossible for the “sensibles” to ignore, so has the very existence of un-masked folk in Qatar.

A further irony is that in the United Arab Emirates, that jurisdiction (not a democracy) managed the pandemic relatively sanely, with strict restrictions for a few weeks, then mask mandates, then vaccines, but normality was restored fairly fast, and done in a way that made sense. I went there on business last November, and colleagues went there in November 2020 when many other places such as Singapore and Hong Kong were completely shut. Hong Kong has suffered immense financial damage and people have left.

Public events can have a power beyond the imaginations of those who put them on. I doubt if the crooks and characters who have made the Qatar World Cup possible ever wondered that one result of the jamboree would be to inspire Chinese people to say that “enough is enough” over zero-covid.

Dying in the light

‘Democracy dies in darkness’ is on the masthead of the Washington Post. They say it as if it is their fear, but they behave as if it is their hope (for example, when hiding the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop). One thing it isn’t (yet) is literal fact. Despite the efforts of many, there’s still enough light around that anyone who chooses to look can see some of what is happening to democracy in the US today.

PART I: let’s examine an example – Arizona.

PAST PERFORMANCE …

The usual suspects spun the Arizona-State-Senate-mandated audit of the 2020 election and its results like a top – but they could not literally suppress it. Anyone who wanted to could (and still can) watch the presentations and/or read the audit reports themselves, not the spin about them.

“None of the various systems related to elections had numbers that would balance and agree with each other. In some cases, these differences were significant. There appears to be many ballots cast from individuals who had moved prior to the election. Files were missing from the Election Management System (EMS) Server. Ballot images on the EMS were corrupt or missing. Logs appeared to be intentionally rolled over, and all the data in the database related to the 2020 General Election had been fully cleared.

On the ballot side, batches were not always clearly delineated, duplicated ballots were missing the required serial numbers, originals were duplicated more than once, and the Auditors were never provided Chain‐of‐Custody documentation for the ballots for the time‐period prior to the ballot’s movement into the Auditors’ care.” [FYI, this is a reformatted summary from ‘Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit Volume I: Executive Summary & Recommendations’. As there was a draft release of the report shortly before the late september presentation and filing, there is more than one version of this text extant, all very very similar but not quite identical.]

Anyone who wanted to look could also see that the people who administered the 2020 Maricopa County election were very hostile to being audited.

“By the County withholding subpoena items, their unwillingness to answer questions as is normal between auditor and auditee, and in some cases actively interfering with audit research, the County prevented a complete audit,”

They were also keen on deleting records (the MSM tried to spin that too), and they continued to withhold information in the face of pressure from the Arizona Senate and Attorney General:

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen have pressed the county and Dominion Voting Systems to produce routers, traffic logs, mail-in ballot envelopes, and other information in their investigation. The county has refused. … in its response MCBOS [the Maricopa county election administrators] failed to explain why it is not required to comply with the legislative subpoena. Its only response was that the Arizona Senate is not currently in session, so MCBOS could not be held in contempt. (August 21st, 2021)

This very cautious audit nevertheless found 23,344 mail-in ballots voted From prior address (and no one with the same last name remaining at the address), 9,041 more ballots returned by voters than were sent to them, and so on and so on for a total of well over fifty thousand flagged ballots (more than five times Joe Biden’s declared margin of victory) – the data breakdown is in the Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit
Volume III: Result Details
(scroll to page 5, ‘Findings Summary Table’).

The canvas audit was a private effort (it resembled some of the follow-up checks the official audit advised in its report but was not a state-run activity: hundreds of canvassers went door-to-door verifying registration and voting information for thousands of residents (and, of course, very properly not asking for whom any responder voted). This method found examples of what the state audit’s methods could not:

“American citizens living in Maricopa County who cast a vote, primarily by mail, in the election and yet there is no record of their vote with the county and it was not counted in the reported vote totals for the election.”

Unlike the state audit’s method, the canvas audit’s statistical samples (and so the estimates made from them) are capable of being overstated, not just of being understated – for much the same reason as an opinion poll can be off in either direction (albeit the canvas audit was on a larger scale than typical polls of comparably-sized populations IIUC). People could simply forget that they had not in fact voted. Or they could lie; it is possible (but a bit odd) that someone who had not bothered to post or cast their vote in the election might nevertheless be motivated to lie that they had. Etc. But the canvas audit found enough cases to estimate 173,104 such “missing or lost” votes (plus four times as many unknown-at-address/departed-from-address mail-ins as the state audit reported). That’s enough for a many-times-over result reversal even if your estimate of the unreliability of the canvas’ audit’s estimates is high. (And of course it would be a additional challenge to justify estimating the lying or errors of audit-canvassed voters very high while estimating those same qualities very low in the unprecedented 2020 statistics of mail-in voters from the same population – or in the administrators who verified them.)

→ Continue reading: Dying in the light

Samizdata quote of the day

Most mainstream journalists cannot be relied upon to critically uncover and impartially convey the facts surrounding a complex and unfolding crisis. If you watched RTE, BBC during the unfolding pandemic, you were fed naively one-sided stories laced with fear-mongering, misleading use of statistics, etc. PCR results, for example, were reported uncritically as though they corresponded to serious cases of disease, when we knew that many PCR positives did not actually correspond to active infections or connoted very mild cases that would not even require medical attention.

David Thunder

Say the bad spell backwards, that’ll work!

“Shoplifting isn’t the real crime, poverty is”, tweets Owen Jones.

The tweet links to this video excerpt from the Jeremy Vine Show, in which the host tries several times to get Mr Jones and the other panellists to give straight answers on whether it is wrong for shops to put anti-theft tags on commonly stolen goods. He doesn’t get any. The responses he does get are variations on two themes, firstly, the non-sequitur “Yes, it is wrong for shops to try and stop their goods being stolen because poverty is the bigger crime”, and secondly, “I don’t condone shoplifting, but here’s why I condone shoplifting.”

At 2:25 Mr Jones says, “The way to abolish shoplifting is to abolish the underlying cause, which is poverty and the cost of living crisis”.

So the answer was in front of our silly noses the whole time!

In future videos Mr Jones will tackle the shocking prevalence of “food deserts” and “health care deserts” in poor areas because so many supermarkets, corner shops and pharmacies have closed down.

“Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?”

“Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?” asks Tom Whipple, Science editor of the Times:

The original R rate of the Wuhan strain was 3, meaning that each infected person passed it to three others. Estimating the R of Omicron is near-impossible — but we know it is vastly harder to contain. It has evolved to spread more effectively and infect more easily.

In the rest of the world, its spread, as well as the Delta variants, has given us “hybrid immunity”. People have been infected after being vaccinated, and the population has a soup of varied antibodies working against infection and serious illness.

In China, they have less a soup of antibodies than a single distilled flavour — from averagely-effective vaccines designed to repel a virus that no longer exists. Omicron has plenty of virgin territory to conquer.

Despite some of the debates we are having today, at a very basic level and on their own terms, lockdowns clearly work. China is proof of that; if people can’t meet each other they can’t infect each other.

But restricting people’s lives entirely is impossible. Eventually both the virus and human nature find ways to circumvent restrictions. Only a country with the state apparatus of China could have hoped to have maintained rolling lockdowns so strict, for so long, that it could persist with zero Covid.

Why is President Xi doing it? Western scientists are increasingly bemused. One answer is vaccination — the country isn’t where it needs to be. Although overall more than 90 per cent of the 1.4 billion Chinese have received two doses and a third booster shot, the rates tail off among the elderly. According to the latest statistics, only 40 per cent of the over-80s have been fully vaccinated. But this just leads to another question: why not?

Some Chinese speculate that the older population, especially, have been reluctant to get boosted and lulled into a false sense of security by strict measures and state propaganda that lauds the country’s lower cases and death rates compared to the West. Distrust in vaccine safety, inevitably, also plays a part.

But another reason China is still focused on prevention, not treatment, could be the lack of intensive care beds — less than four for every 100,000 people, according to the National Health Commission in Beijing, which means a large-scale Covid outbreak could have disastrous consequences. In Britain, the figure at the start of the pandemic was 7.3 critical care beds per 100,000 people, less than half the average in other European nations (15.9).

In its pursuit of zero Covid, China was not blessed by geography, it was instead blessed with a powerful state and fewer qualms regarding civil liberties. What is baffling to outside observers is that the same state that is so effective at imposing extremely severe restrictions on its people is so ineffective at getting all of them vaccinated, or providing enough hospital beds.

Don’t fixate on Mr Whipple’s use of the word “blessed” in “blessed with a powerful state and fewer qualms regarding civil liberties”; he clearly means it ironically. Alongside many others, he is finally beginning to understand. A pity it comes so late, but better late than never. One day it may no longer baffle him that a society that runs on lies cannot get science right, and that a society that runs on force cannot get anything right.

Samizdata quote of the day – state mandated recession edition

To see the folly of the UK’s approach, you just have to look at Sweden, which had no lockdown and far lighter restrictions. As a cancer surgeon pointed out in the Spectator last year, the difference in access to cancer services was astonishing. Taking prostate cancer as an example, during the first wave in 2020, the number of patients undergoing prostatectomies fell by 43 per cent in Britain, but by just three per cent in Sweden. Such a stark gap cannot simply be blamed on the virus. Lockdown is the difference here.

Perhaps the most obvious impact of lockdown has been on the economy, where a new grim milestone is surpassed every month. Shops, restaurants, offices and factories were shuttered for months on end in 2020 and 2021. Vast swathes of the economy were either mothballed or severely disrupted – far more by state-enforced restrictions than by the pandemic itself. The lockdowns of 2020 resulted in the UK’s worst recession in the history of industrial capitalism – a fall in economic output not seen since the Great Frost of 1709.

Fraser Myers